SORSOGON CITY, Sorsogon Province – 25Sept2013 (BicolToday.com) – The use of two helicopter gunships that strafed on suspected rebel lairs in upland Juban town, this province, was confirmed by the Philippine Army.
The strafing on Sunday had forced about 81 families to flee from their homes and farms and sought refuge in Juban town proper.
As reported, soldiers encountered about 40 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on Sunday in upper Juban town and firefights ensued, prompting ground troops to seek air support owing to the NPAs’ advantageous position and superior firepower.
Seized by Army soldiers after the firefight were five (5) Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), three (3) Motorola GP 2000 handheld radios, one (1) generator set, ninety (90) rounds of ammunition for Caliber 60 Light Machine Gun, medical paraphernalia, personal belongings and voluminous subversive documents.
Latest report said sixty (60) households, mostly coco farmers, composed of 81 families of Upper Maalo village, who evacuated on Sunday evening, had already returned to their homes as of Wednesday, September 25, upon learning that the fighting and strafing had ceased.
Juban Information Officer Ms. Reline Arellano on Tuesday said as early as late evening of Sunday, there were already residents who, one by one, returned to their homes to attend to their livelihoods, and on Tuesday, all evacuees went back to their respective residences.
In an Army press statement made public on Tuesday, “one platoon reinforced of 31st Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division of Philippine Army led by 1Lt Rory Esico and 2Lt Dondon Canilang encountered, more or less, forty (40) heavily armed NPA members believed to be part of the Provincial Yunit Guerilla (PYG) under Ka Cindy, Komiteng Probinsya (KOMPROB) Sorsogon under Andres Hubilla a.k.a Ka Magno, and Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC) forces at about 3:00 pm on Sunday at Bintacan Complex at the boundaries of Barangays Maalo and Bulala in Juban town, Sorsogon.”
Col Joselito E. Kakilala, Commander of 903rd Infantry Brigade exercising operational control over 31IB said “the soldiers were deployed in the area for combat operations in response to an anonymous complaint from a concerned civilian of the presence of armed NPA rebels reportedly conducting violent activities.”
The Army had assessed that, based on intelligence reports gathered, the BRPC was also believed to conduct Plenum in the said area.
Col Kakilala narrated that when the troops arrived in the area, “they were met with heavy volume of fire from the enemy (NPA) that eventually broke into a firefight that lasted for almost one (1) hour, after which the enemy withdrew towards north and east directions.”
He added that during pursuit operations, the fleeing rebels engaged in sniper fires against the government troops resulting to exchange of fires between the two opposing forces.
As a result, due to sustained NPA sniping, two (2) UH-1H Helicopters were called in to provide Close Air Support (CAS) to government troops.
The conduct of air support, which was aimed to target the assessed enemy position was carried out through Forward Observer (FO) support from ground troops, and with strict adherence to the Rules of Engagement (ROE), thereby inflicting no collateral damage to innocent lives, or their properties in the area of operation.
So far, no civilian was injured during the strafing.
The Army colonel also emphasized that “the recovery of IEDs from the rebels, which they rampantly employ in their tactical offensives against government troops, is a clear manifestation of the NPAs’ blatant disregard and violation of the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which strictly prohibits the use of such deadly war material, for which the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is one of the signatories.” [BicolToday.com]